Saturday, April 08, 2006

Remember the Daschle/Gephardt Democratic Leadership Team? This One's Better

Although I'm occasionally prone to wondering why Nancy Pelosi was ever chosen House Minority Leader, I haven't been one of the Cool Kids piling on the scorn that everyone in Washington thinks is their right these days. "Oh, she's so terrible," I actually heard someone at work say the other day. If you know anything about the insiderish realms of the political left, you know it's fun and easy to beat up on the Democratic leaders. Harry Reid is boring. He lacks charisma. Pelosi shoots her mouth off. She comes across as mean. They should just say they're above the fray and let the Republicans self-destruct. Bla. Bla. Bla.

This article is an absolute must-read for anyone who thinks this way. If you think Bush accidentally got in such hot water over the Dubai ports deal, guess what? It was Charles Schumer all along. Think Bush's embarrassing news about intelligence failures just cropped up out of nowhere? It was Harry Reid all along. Trust me when I say this, because I speak from experience: reporters go where the story seems to exist, intact, without much needed digging on their part. It's not entirely our fault that we simply aren't paid, or told by our editors, to spend months digging through obscure records to find "the truth." We have deadlines. We can follow a story to see where it goes, but we need to put copy out there. It's not pretty, but it's the nature of the business. So if Democrats do something to make news, reporters are given an opportunity to cover it. Yes, the billion-footed-beast that is the White House is always pulling gaffes and giving the media something to cover, but Democrats don't enter into that coverage unless they either do their own proactive thing or at least respond creatively. Being available on the phone for a rent-a-quote at the end of a long article about Iraq isn't cutting it.

So, long story short, the conventional wisdom about how the Democrats are the same old dismally awkward party of squabbling and disarray is convincingly slain by this piece. They are seriously more united under the current leadership than they ever were under Clinton or in the first Bush term. Here's a quick sample:

Over in the Senate, Reid temporarily silenced his critics when he staged a showdown last fall, shutting down the Senate to compel Republicans to discuss pre-war intelligence. GOP promises to pursue inquiries into how the intelligence was gathered, interpreted, and used had gone nowhere, and Democrats had no institutional means to conduct their own investigation. So Reid forced the issue, invoking an obscure parliamentary procedure that sent the Senate into a closed session. Republicans were furious, but they were also backed into a corner. Reluctantly, the leadership agreed to restart the investigations, putting the issue of intelligence back in the national spotlight. The in-your-face move signaled that Reid had the inclination, and the electoral security, to push Republicans around in a way that his predecessor Tom Daschle never could.
From using Senate parlor tricks to standing firm on Social Security to staying on message about the "culture of corruption" to a dozen other things, these guys have finally figured out how running a fractious party really works. There's always room for improvement, but I say let's give some credit where it's due, shall we? Just think of it this way: after the Alito confirmation, which was already a done deal, can you think of a single Bush policy or political victory? At all? I can't.


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